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"Of Course I Tumble the First Ball"

Ranald M. Alexander


From "Passages in the Life of a Subaltern," titled 'Of course I tumble the first ball I go into uniform, and don't know how to get up again.' An illustration showing the challenges of wearing a kilt if one falls during dancing (and the embarrassment have having to let a trousered gentleman right your lady because presumably, one doesn't know how to "get up," without further embarrassment). From a series of humourous sketches in The Graphic, September 5, 1874, by Mr. Ranald M. Alexander detailed thusly: "A subaltern on joining a Highland regiment finds it very difficult at first to put on his uniform properly, as there are so many et ceteras; for instance, a friend of mine on joining dressed himself in full uniform, kilt hindside foremost, plaid over wrong shoulder, &c, and went and got photographed, and presented in this plight, but he was an Irishman. It is not a pleasant thing to put on one's kilt for the first time in cold weather, and one also feels a little awkward in making one's debut for the first time in a ball in full uniform. A subaltern on joining is rather open to practical jokes, such as as being 'drawn' if he goes to bed early by his more lively comrades. Going round the guards when on duty in wet weather is a task not to be envied. A 'wigging from the general at his inspection is what most 'subs' have to go through . One finds it somewhat difficult to get a trustworthy servant in a regiment; as a rule they are open to much temptation, and it is not an uncommon thing to find one's servant in ones's bed in a helpless state of intoxication, which is a nuisance on retiring after a 'big night' rather fatigued. Most subalterns are always in love, and great many always in debt."

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